Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Policy Development 001

There has been some discussion with Steven Burgess (stevemanc1) about his forum design which he's working on independently. It seems this is intended to implement a policy discussion forum but I'm not clear on whether people think we should try to integrate our systems with this forum, or vice versa or (as I'm inlcined to think) whether we need a clearer idea of how policy development fits into the wider scheme of our project before we can even address that question.

Some comments:

David Pavett:
I think that we should spend a little time considering different formats for debate. The trouble with blogs is their rather linear form leading to a jumble of different threads coming from one debate. Bulleting boards overcome this partially with nested threads. The Loomio platform offers a far more sophisticated solution and should be considered. A website which acts as a repository for substantial contributions is almost certainly required. Then we need to talk about how debate can be organised. Left Futures for example has many qualities but the appearance of materials on different issues is virtually random. Can we set debating themes and try to tackle issues collectively? Should be try to produce an on-line magazine? How should debate be moderated? What place, if any, should be given to theoretical issues along with practical ones? if at all?
Chris MacMackin:
I'm glad to see that David mentioned the Loomio platform, as it is something which I have come across and found interesting as well. Here are some thoughts I had on a possible structure for a policy discussion system. - Position papers put forward by experts, think tanks, groups of people directly involved with the issue etc. - A discussion thread attached to each such paper. The purpose of these would be to provide material for a coherent Response, described below. - A "response" edited in a Wikipedia-like fashion, expressing general reactions to the position paper. The comments could be used as a means to get material for and to discuss issues with the response. - Perhaps some sort of meta-response page for each theme (education, strategy, theory, health, etc.) which would reflect people's overall feelings about policy on that theme. This would be drawn from individual response pages on the theme. I feel as though something like a wiki structure might work best for this. From a technical standpoint, I'm not 100% certain how you'd go about coupling position papers to responses, but I'm sure it's possible. ... People contributing to the response papers would need to be members of this site. Perhaps to register they would need to prove membership of Momentum, or something. Momentum's database would have to give everyone a unique identifier. If they could find that out and enter it in when registering, along with the email or postcode they used with Momentum, then their membership could be verified. This would likely require coordination with Momentum in order to happen
David Pavett:
Is a debate between 1000 people, or even 100 come to that, doable? My guess is that it is but that it would need a level of careful planning, presentation and coordination (some form of on line chairing) well beyond anything we have yet seen. It would probably take a fair amount of experimentation to get there. What I am sure of is that it will only work if each debate is around and initial high quality document or documents. Everyone chipping in their little bit can never be a substitute for the hard research work of putting a coherent case together which others can then extend, criticise and modify.
Questions: who will develop policy, on what basis? What will be done with policy proposals? How will this integrate with eth policy development process in the party? How will decisions be reached when the subject matter is far more contestable than more objectvely factual topics, and discussion likely to be far more passionate and positions more entrenched than is the case in most strategic and tactical decisions? Will this be an attempt to build a new policy development framework for the party? Will it involve plebiscites? How, if we are to dedicate scarce resources to the project, do we ensure it achieves something useful and doesn't devolve into a mere talking shop or getting bogged down in the narcissism of small differences?

This is not meant to sound too negative. This could be a very important initiative. As these preliminary questions may suggest, is also potentially a big challenge.

We need to be clear that such a project, if presented as a forum for all members to have their views heard, carries with it the potential for acrimony, distraction from the pursuit of tangible and achievable goals, disappointment of those taking part if their policy proposals are not adopted, and unnecessary friction with other elements of the party.

It will accordingly need careful consideration and planning if it is to provide tangible benefits. It may be that policy development is best seen as emerging from other activities: research, or organised debates/seminars/symposiums which can bring in outside experts and attract press interest and coverage. I've suggested elsewhere we need to be thinking about storing usable units of data. Perhaps we need to tie input to policy discussions more closely to actually providing some such 'product'; a piece of research (which can take many forms), or a clear structured argument with supporting materials, the semantics of which can be interrogated via IT systems?

I think something like this may indeed be necessary because a higly accessible open forum for free discussion is likely, once it achieves a critical mass of participation, to rapidly attract blowhards, casual trolls, saboteurs, the indomitably doctrinaire, etc, as any message board or sizeable blog comments section tends to do: wheil that may make for healthy knockabout debate, it doesn't tend to result in any identifiable progress. I hope it won't be controversial to say that everything we do needs to be focused on making progress towards some significant goal or at least along some some identifiable path.

Having said all that, it may be that there is sufficient within Momentum on some of the more tractable policy issues for novel consensus positions to emerge: are we then looking at an intra- (and extra-)party lobbying or campaigning organisation aimed at trying to promote the Momentum line?

Also, how (if at all) does this area interact with the idea raised in General Discussion 001:
Generating and propagating 'best practice' in making our case - this covers everything from a readily-searchable data base of well-researched facts and figures up to detailed recommendations for a 'party line' on specific issues
(assuming that the idea is one we should be pursuing in the first place). How would policy debate interact or overlap with say strategic and tactical debate? What parallels and divergences exist between these? Could they use the same system or duplicate systems? How important is screening, reputation scoring, demonstrable expertise etc. among participants, if at all?

11 comments:

stevemanc1 said...

Awesome introduction, David.

I suggest you

1) begin with microeconomics,
2) ignore macroeconomics which is frequently propoganda and pseudoscience.

Pay huge attention to
a) utility theory and
b) game theory and

c) do not skip on maths. If you do, you'll never grasp the abstract power of anything, let alone economics.

Once you grasp microeconomics sufficiently thoroughly, the real macro falls into place in my experience. And the fake macro is exposed.

Aggressively managed capitalism looks inevitable once the picture is clear.

But, since such aggressive management would involve the popular ownership of monopolies including natural resources, a large part of the means of production in this situation is owned by the people and the workers.

Which, while not being strictly socialist, is an approximation to it, and isnt pure capitalism either.

This is why i describe myself as a Geoist and Georgist, and have deep socialist sympathies to go alongside my deep capitalist ones.

Just my take on things.

I do NOT claim to have qualifications in these areas. I do beleive i understand more than others, though. Call me arrogant, call me audacious. I dont care. But analyse my arguments.

stevemanc1 said...

Correction:- I am not a "Georgist", more of a Geoist, really. Not that the differences are huge.

.... ah you mean board policy rather than economic of legislative policy.

Perhaps you can move this comment to a seperate thread for economic policy.

As for discussion group policy, the __critical thing__ is an optimally prioritised list of functions of a board.

And I beleive that since a critical list requires collaborative work and neither this forum nor mine has that function LOOMIO, is the best place to start for that. and then build either this or my board into something which eventually has more of the optimally priortised functions than the loomio site.

Please let me know if you disagree, or create a thread that points to this statement as policy, and provides a link to the same policy statement on the loomio board. Which ima gonna create..... done....

https://www.loomio.org/d/cHJw9Qi1/which-discussion-group-should-we-use-

Follow me over there.

I will generate an initial, suboptimally prioritised list of functions we wish to see.

I welcome attempts to argue improvements in the prioritisation methods.

Steven.

Steven.

David Pavett said...

Thanks for the response.

The key point of interest for me is that you think that (1) microeconomics is a ready made field of knowledge which one can pick up an study, (2) that macroeconomics is by contrast pseudo-science.

I think that left-wing debate should start from a critique of all social science concepts and not from accepting them as a given. I also find the suggestion that macro as opposed to micro economics is pseudo-science rather bizarre since capitalism must be understood as a whole and if you start from the factory and work upwards what you end up with is accounting and not economics. All the basic concepts commodity, value, money, exchange, wages, capital, profit need careful unpicking (as Marx showed) to reveal a very different picture from the one conventionally presented. Also there can be quite different views of micro economics. It might consist of an analytical investigation of the simplest unit of capitalist production (Marx) or as "studies the behaviour of individuals and firms in making decisions regarding the allocation of limited resources" (conventional) which leads in a very different direction.

I think that social choice theory, game theory and the like are interesting and have some valuable results but that they do not get to the heart of the matter of analysing key economic concepts.

You use terms like "fake macro" as if they had an evident meaning. Are you saying that the ideas of Adam Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Keynes were just pseudoscience?

I can make no sense of the suggestion that managed capitalism is "inevitable" AND that a large part of natural resources and means of production should be collectively owned.

I can make no sense either of the claim to have deep socialist and deep capitalist sympathies.

We are not at a point at which things like this can be said as if they had an evident and clear meaning. We do not yet have a common language and if we think that such a language is readily available by delving into a few current textbooks then I am sure will will never emerge with a sane picture of the world we want to change.

A model of the sort of critique of concepts I am talking of was given by Marx in his Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy (not the Preface). Our social thinking has still not got to the point reached by Marx all that time ago.

Establishing clear communication is not going to be easy because socialist thought traditions have withered so badly.

stevemanc1 said...

"you think that ... microeconomics is a ready made field of knowledge which one can pick up an study,"

1) There's plenty of work that's been done already and this can be found in standard texts on the subject.

Try

https://www.amazon.com/Microeconomic-Theory-Andreu-Mas-Colell/dp/0195073401

Or if that is too dense, some other math work that will help you grasp it.

===

"that macroeconomics is by contrast pseudo-scienc....." "I also find the suggestion that macro as opposed to micro economics is pseudo-science rather bizarre since capitalism must be understood as a whole"

The macro of any science is merely an aggregate of the micro. To seperate them implies theres pseudoscience going on. microbiology doesnt have conceptual differences with macrobiology like , microeconomics does with macroeconomics

===

"I think that left-wing debate should start from a critique of all social science concepts and not from accepting them as a given."

Some concepts are proven and well established. Such as elasticity and nash equilibria. Atempting to critique these things is akin to attempting to critique general relativity.

Humanity has done a lot of work already, its important to know the building blocks that exist already.

===


"and if you start from the factory and work upwards what you end up with is accounting and not economics."

Accounting data is economic data. it isnt seperate.

stevemanc1 said...

"We are not at a point at which things like this can be said as if they had an evident and clear meaning. We do not yet have a common language and if we think that such a language is readily available by delving into a few current textbooks then I am sure will will never emerge with a sane picture of the world we want to change."

in any discussion there must be disambiguation. The greater the disambiguiation the greater the clarity and the more productive the discussion.

Mathematicians troutinely spend more time explaining what ther terms mean than they do using those terms and manipulating them.

But such a discussion should be in a place like the loomio group whewre ive posted a prioritised model for optimised discussion functionality.

"A model of the sort of critique of concepts I am talking of was given by Marx in his Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy (not the Preface). Our social thinking has still not got to the point reached by Marx all that time ago."

I'll take a look once the discussion platform is functional. That is more urgent.

"Establishing clear communication is not going to be easy because socialist thought traditions have withered so badly."

We agree entirely. Right wingers like the guy on the momentum unofficial forum rages at empty socialist "value signalling" rhetoric, which essentially comes down to pseudointellectual attempts to feign an intellectual and moral image.

I dont think we see too much socialist analysis of fundamentals because the core notions of socialism, like many of the neoliberal and capitalist notions, dont withstand scrutiny.

Im happy to join in rasining the level of debate.


But first the discussion platform mechanics must be correct.

Thats what my most recent loomio thread is for.

right now i am typing in a small box with a small character limit on a page thats difficult to browse with no thread priortisation, seperation or collaborative editing and then having to seperate my response into three seperate replies.

This sucks and is too inefficient for practical purposes.

Lets build something better.

Loomio is a step in the right direction.

Tim Wilkinson said...

I think you're right - this conversation should be conducted at some other location, perhaps your own site.

This blog is only for discussion, design and planning of the 'Labour Roots Project'.

Having to sift through off-topic comments and general chit-chat is rapi9dly going to become a pain in the neck and impede our efforts to maintain clear focus and make practical progress.

stevemanc1 said...

I think i prefer loomio currently thanks to its collaborative editing, so lets move there, but theres LOTS still to improve and ive listed it on Loomio. i think momentumunofficial.freeforums.net will be best for the further improvements, because its the most customisable of the fora. But if anyone comes up with anything yet better, i'm happy to hear about it.

Steven

Chris MacMackin said...

As Tim said, we're getting badly off-topic. This is meant to be about policy development mechanisms, not our own theories and interpretations. On the collaborative working page, I have laid out some proposals for how to develop policy. I'd be interested to hear people's responses. It certainly is not a complete system, but it could be a place to start? That said, I feel like maybe our first priority should be to develop a system to produce responses to contributions put forward by experts, as I describe in the paragraph Tim quoted in this article.

stevemanc1 said...

You are of course, correct, this is not the place for the economics discussion. perhaps you want to move my and David's comments to a lower priority economics thread further down the list?

stevemanc1 said...

And perhaps you can alter the thread title to refer to mechanisms. As it is, people could imagine this is the place to devlop policy. Including economic policy.

Tim Wilkinson said...

@stevemanc There is no economics thread. That is not what the site is for.

Let me clarify a couple of things:

1. The aim is to develop systems for collaborative research & policy development and the production of informational and PR materials. This ought to be clear enough to anyone who has read any of the posts.

2. The aim here is not to keep changing our discussion format until it is perfect but to get on with the discussion. We are trying to assemble notes, while you keep telling us we should be concentrating on getting a nicer notebook and copying our notes into it.

If you have useful comments to make that address the issues we are discussing here, please go ahead and make them here.

But if not, please find somewhere else to leave your remarks, since they are simply getting in the way of our discussion, and in particular driving other people's comments out of the 'recent comments' list which is intended to keep that discussion going.

I'm sorry if this is comes over as impatient or even rude. I don't particularly seek to be. But more important to me (and I think the other members of the team) is to ensure that the limited time and energy we can spare here is used to progress the project without disruption.